Chinese consumers will be biting into domestic cherries, while the country seeks to import from other countries, including Turkey, after July 6, when China is expected to impose a 25 percent border tax on hundreds of American goods, said Zhao Xiaoyu, a Beijing fruit merchant.
Simmering trade tensions between the world's top two economies are set to erupt into a full-blown trade war Friday, with Washington poised to impose new tariffs on $34 billion on Chinese goods.
Beijing has pledged to hit back dollar for dollar, placing a new tax on American goods like cherries, soybeans, autos, pork and whiskey, putting them at a disadvantage to their global rivals.
Washington's list is heavy on tech goods, aiming in part to shift supply chains away from China, while Beijing has put politically sensitive U.S. farm goods in the firing line.
To lessen the self-inflicted shock, Beijing is searching for replacements.
The looming trade war also has U.S. traders and growers worried. U.S. Senator Ron Wyden blasted Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross last month, noting that growers with 1.5 million boxes of cherries ready for China had come to him in a panic.
"They're worried those cherries are going to end up stuck at the dock or rotting in a warehouse due to China's retaliation," Wyden said.
Zhao, the Beijing cherry importer, said existing contracts for this year's cherry harvest would make it hard to stop buying American cherries altogether.
"If we lose some money on contracts this year, there's nothing we can do about it," said Zhao. "If it's still going on next year, we'll go straight to Turkey and Uzbekistan."
Ranking first in cherry production and third in exports in global statistics, Turkey aims to become the main shareholder in the Chinese market, one of the largest consumers in the world.
The country has recently received a permit to export cherries to China, after almost eight years of technical and diplomatic work, as well as a series of negotiations between Turkish exporters and Chinese authorities.
As a result of initiatives by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock and the Ministry of Economy last year to send products to China after the European Union (EU), Russia and the U.S., the classic markets for cherries, the Chinese government granted permits to nine Turkish companies for cherry imports, which will start this year.
Seasonal conditions this year and the early start of the cherry harvest reflect positively on Turkey's cherry exports, which might hit a record high this year, about 85,000 tons with a value of $200 million, officials previously said.
According to Uludağ Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Exporters' Association's (UYMSİB) umbrella organization Uludağ Exporters' Association (UİB), Turkey's cherry exports in the first five months rose by 184 percent compared to the same period last year, reaching $54 million.
UİB figures also showed that the amount of cherry exports increased by 165 percent to 20,404 tons in the January to May period.
The highest export figure was recorded in 2016 - amounting 78,700 tons with a revenue of $182.7 million, whereas last year Turkey's cherry export totaled 65,000 tons with a yield worth $159 million.
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